Binance slapped with $2.25-M penalty by Indian financial watchdog


India’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has imposed a penalty of Rs 18.82 crore ($2.25 million) on Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, for violating local anti-money laundering (AML) regulations.

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Violations and penalties detailed

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The FIU found Binance guilty of failing to comply with various sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act of 2002 (PMLA) and the PMLA Maintenance of Record Rules of 2005.

These regulations aim to prevent money laundering activities and combat the financing of terrorism. Binance has been directed to ensure diligent compliance with these statutory obligations.

The FIU’s notice to Binance, issued on December 28, 2023, highlighted that the exchange was providing services to Indian clients and operating within the country without adhering to mandatory legal requirements.

After reviewing Binance’s submissions, the FIU concluded that the charges were substantiated and imposed the financial penalty.

Broader implications and previous actions

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In addition to the penalty on Binance, the FIU had also issued notices to eight other cryptocurrency exchanges operating in India. These notices required the exchanges to explain their operations, given that they were operating without necessary permissions and were not following AML laws.

The FIU also recommended that the Indian IT ministry block access to the URLs of these platforms.

Following these recommendations, India blocked access to several exchanges, including Binance, Kucoin, and OKX, in January. This action was based on inputs received by the FIU that suggested these platforms may have been used for money laundering activities.

The blocking of these URLs was a significant step in ensuring compliance with local regulations.

In May, Binance and KuCoin received necessary approvals from the Indian financial watchdog to resume operations after paying a penalty, reportedly around $41,000.

This allowed them to operate legally within the framework established by Indian authorities.

The importance of compliance

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India requires virtual digital asset service providers like cryptocurrency exchanges to be registered with the FIU as reporting entities and to comply with its AML rules.

These regulations are crucial in preventing illegal activities such as money laundering and the financing of terrorism, which can be facilitated through anonymous and unregulated financial platforms.

The FIU’s actions highlight the importance of regulatory compliance for cryptocurrency exchanges operating in India. As digital assets become more integrated into the global financial system, ensuring robust AML controls and adherence to local laws is critical.

The penalty on Binance serves as a reminder to other exchanges about the serious consequences of failing to comply with regulatory requirements.

Future outlook

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The cryptocurrency market in India is at a crucial juncture, with regulatory bodies increasing their scrutiny on exchanges to ensure a safe and compliant trading environment. The FIU’s stringent measures aim to foster a more secure digital asset ecosystem, deterring illegal activities and promoting transparency.

For Binance, the penalty is a setback but also an opportunity to reinforce its commitment to compliance and regulatory adherence.

The exchange will need to work closely with Indian authorities to ensure it meets all legal obligations, thereby restoring its operational status and trust among Indian users.

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